October 22, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
48°F

Election 2011: ‘Turbulent’ times face Highland if 10-year levy fails

MEDINA — Highland Schools officials are hoping the fourth time is the charm when it comes to passing a levy.

Three ballot issues have failed since November 2009, and school officials said the 6.9-mill levy on the May 3 ballot is needed to maintain the level of education it provides.

Aukerman

Aukerman

“After 12 years without a new operating levy, we really can’t maintain our excellence without the passage of this,” Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said. “We really need the community to partner with us to help support us and pass this issue.”

Numbers from the Medina County Auditor’s Office show the 10-year levy, if approved, would cost property owners $217.36 a year per $100,000 of appraised property valuation. It would bring in $4.6 million annually.

School officials said levy revenue would delay a budget deficit, but it’s unclear for how long.

In its last five-year forecast filed with the state, the district expected to see a $3.8 million deficit in June 2013. It later estimated Highland would see a $365,000 deficit in 2014 if the May levy passes.

Those estimates, however, could change, especially with the state budget situation.

Aukerman said Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal would cut about $3.2 million to the school over a two-year period. That’s more than the district thought might be cut.

“It’s hard for us to do any long-term budget planning right now because things are so turbulent,” she said.

Aukerman added: “It’s even more critical now due to the budget cuts. Every year we go longer without more revenue in the district, it equates to lost opportunities for the students.”

The district has made about $4 million in cuts in the last two years, including laying off 40 teachers and staff, consolidating bus routes and freezing administrators’ pay.

On Monday, the board announced the Highland teachers union and administrators have agreed to pay more for health benefits over the next two years, which will save the district $1 million.

Nevertheless, Aukerman said the district would have to make $6.5 million in cuts if the levy does not pass. No specific reductions have been pinpointed.

“Everything is on the line,” she said.

She said the district may consider eliminating high school busing, combining elementary and middle school bus routes, increasing pay-to-participate fees and delaying textbook and technology purchases. She said the district also might lay off more teachers, which would result in larger class sizes.

“It’s just not a good situation,” she said.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.